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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

5 Interval Training Patterns That Can Help You Build Stamina

When I first bought a treadmill and started exercising on it, I used it just to get aerobic exercise and to prepare for hikes and treks. For aerobic exercise, I simply warmed up for a couple of minutes at a walking pace, then ran at a higher speed for about 20 minutes to half an hour. At the end of the exercise, I again cooled down by walking for a couple of minutes.

My slow walking speed is about 3 miles per hour (MPH), and I can walk briskly at 4 MPH. I can run for a pretty long time at 5, 6 or 7 MPH (the higher the speed, the less time I can sustain it, but I can sustain even 7 MPH for about 20 minutes). So, my typical aerobic workout would consist of 1 minute at 3 MPH, 1 minute at 4 MPH, 20 to 30 minutes at either 6 or 7 MPH, followed by another minute at 4 MPH and a final minute at 3 MPH.

Sole F83 treadmillFor preparing for hikes and treks, I used to warm up by walking for a couple of minutes at 3 MPH, followed by a couple of minutes at 4 MPH, then incline the treadmill up at 12% and walk up at 3 MPH for an hour or so. At the end of that hour, I would flatten the treadmill again, and walk for a couple of minutes at 3 MPH to complete the exercise.

Then, a few months back, I discovered interval training. Interval training consists of alternating bouts of high-intensity and low-intensity aerobic exercise. It can refer to any aerobic exercise, including running, biking, swimming, etc. According to research conducted by the Mayo exercise, interval training helps improve exercisers’ aerobic capacity to exercise longer at varying intensities. It has also been proven to be more effective at inducing fat loss than simply training at a moderate intensity level for the same duration.

Previously, interval training was thought to be too strenuous for ordinary people. But research has indicated that it can be used safely and effectively by by people who are not professional athletes too. Research has shown those doing interval training can double their endurance, improve their oxygen use and strength by more than 10% and their speed by at least 5%. You can find more information on interval training on Wikipedia and Medicinenet among other places. USA Today published an article pushing the benefits of interval training recently. You can also search for more information on interval training, and find a lot more information about it.

So, as part of my preparation for my karate black belt test, I switched over to interval training from my regular aerobic workout so that I could perform better in my test, and also improve my overall fitness level. I had to do a bit of experimentation to find the best interval-training workout for myself. After all that experimentation, I came up with the following 5 interval training patterns that have worked very well for me so far. I have programmed my treadmill for all of these patterns and I pick one based on what mood I am in, and how long I have for the workout. The shortest of these are only 23 minutes long while the longer ones are a little more leisurely at 30 minutes long.

By the way, most treadmills do not allow users to enter more than a couple of user programs, but the Sole F83, pictured above, is a top-rated treadmill that allows users to store up to 6 custom programs. But even if your treadmill does not allow you to store all of these programs, you can put it in manual mode and adjust the speeds manually at the appropriate times to complete the workout.

Each of the patterns has a short one or two-minute warm-up at 3 MPH, and a corresponding cool-down at the end. The actual workout usually consists of intensive activity periods (running at 5, 6, 7, or 8 MPH), alternated with rest periods (walking at 4 MPH). Now, these were speeds that suited me based on my height, weight and leg-length. For me, 3 MPH is a leisurely walk, 4 MPH is a pretty brisk walk, 5 MPH is a very leisurely jog, 6 MPH is my normal jogging speed, 7 MPH is brisk jogging, and 8 MPH is the limit of what I can do comfortably over extended periods of time. I have sprinted at 10 to 12 MPH on the treadmill for very short periods of time (a minute or so), but I can not do those speeds on a consistent basis for several minutes during a workout routine, so I avoid including them in my interval training workout.

Depending on your height, weight, and leg-length, as well as your overall fitness levels, you can take these training patterns and adjust them to your needs. Also, I have access only to a treadmill, so these patterns are based on running speeds on a treadmill. Depending on your choice of aerobic exercise and machine, you have to make some adjustments too. If you run outdoors, you can use these patterns by marking off the distances covered in each minute on a course and then walking or running between these landmarks as appropriate. To monitor your speed accurately, you can use a handheld GPS unit or just rely on your own sense of how hard you are exerting yourself.

Interval Training Pattern 1Interval training speed chart 1

This is the simplest training pattern I came up with when I started interval training. I experimented with different running speeds for the intense activity portion of the interval training, but settled on 8 MPH finally. It is also a short program at just 23 minutes including the warm-up and cool-down. The total distance covered in this pattern is a little over 2 miles (2.17 miles to be exact).

Minute

Speed (MPH)

1

3

2

4

3

8

4

4

5

8

6

4

7

8

8

4

9

8

10

4

11

8

12

4

13

8

14

4

15

8

16

4

17

8

18

4

19

8

20

4

21

8

22

4

23

3

Interval Training Pattern 2Interval training speed chart 2

My karate sensei talks about his workout sometimes, and he once mentioned that he works out at home by punching a bag for 2 minutes at a time and resting for 1 minute in between. That gave me the idea to modify the pattern above to derive a more intense variation of it. This workout is only marginally longer than the previous one at 24 minutes long overall, but covers 2.5 miles because of the higher number of minutes at higher speeds.

Minute

Speed (MPH)

1

3

2

4

3

8

4

8

5

4

6

8

7

8

8

4

9

8

10

8

11

4

12

8

13

8

14

4

15

8

16

8

17

4

18

8

19

8

20

4

21

8

22

8

23

4

24

3

Interval Training Pattern 3Interval training speed chart 3

This is a longer program, but it is not really any more intense than the previous patterns. The workout alternates periods of walking with periods of running, but the initial periods of running are at pretty low speeds, so the overall intensity until you reach the final 10 minutes is quite sustainable for me. The entire workout is 30 minutes long and covers 2.6 miles.

Minute

Speed (MPH)

1

3

2

3

3

4

4

4

5

5

6

5

7

5

8

5

9

4

10

4

11

6

12

6

13

6

14

6

15

4

16

4

17

7

18

7

19

7

20

7

21

4

22

4

23

8

24

8

25

8

26

8

27

4

28

4

29

3

30

3

Interval Training Pattern 4Interval training speed chart 4

This is a derivation of the above pattern that I like because it spreads out the high intensity parts of the workout throughout the workout period rather than concentrating them towards the end. Otherwise, they are identical in that this one also lasts 30 minutes and covers 2.6 miles.

Minute

Speed (MPH)

1

3

2

3

3

4

4

4

5

5

6

6

7

7

8

8

9

4

10

4

11

5

12

6

13

7

14

8

15

4

16

4

17

5

18

6

19

7

20

8

21

4

22

4

23

5

24

6

25

7

26

8

27

4

28

4

29

3

30

3

Interval Training Pattern 5Interval training speed chart 5

This last one was designed for when I want to do something like pattern 4, but don’t have enough time to spend 30 minutes on a workout. I reduced the timings for the rest periods, and the warm-ups and cool-downs so that the entire workout is now only 23 minutes long. Like the first two patterns, you end up covering 2.17 miles during this workout.

Minute

Speed (MPH)

1

3

2

4

3

5

4

6

5

7

6

8

7

4

8

5

9

6

10

7

11

8

12

4

13

5

14

6

15

7

16

8

17

4

18

5

19

6

20

7

21

8

22

4

23

3

Since I started doing interval training, I have experienced good improvements in my endurance and stamina. I have also been able to control my breathing better during periods of intense exercise so that I don’t pant and run out of breath. It has made me a better sparrer in my karate class so that I can go more rounds with more opponents without becoming a rag-doll out of exhaustion. And that is a very good thing, because in karate, as my sensei always likes saying, it is always better to give than to get!

2 comments:

Danny Ferris said...

At present I like using the rowing machine, and what I like is these can easily be adapted for that or any other cardio workout, this is great

Mitcheal Clerk said...

I will prefer this blog because it has much more informative stuff. Alan

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